Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Now, Smearing the Trial Lawyers

If you like the Karl Rove-inspired attack on John Kerry's Swift Boat service, you're going to love the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's coming assault on John Edwards. Like the right-wing vets smearing Kerry's Vietnam record, the anti-Edwards group is nominally an independent committee. But as The New York Times reports, the cochairmen of the new "November Fund" are a former Republican National Committee chairman, Bill Brock, and a former chief of staff to Bush Sr., Craig Fuller. The core of their attack will be that Edwards is (gasp) a trial lawyer. For decades, "trial lawyer" has been used in Republican speeches as an epithet. Business executives applaud in appreciation -- and everyone else scratches his head. What's so terrible about trial lawyers? Are they worse than, say, corporate lawyers? The attack on trial lawyers as ambulance chasers and cost inflators invites exploration. The corporate elite and the GOP have three grudges against "trial lawyers." First, damage awards cost...

Wrong Cure

There is something quite lunatic about the entire debate on whether to permit imports of drugs from Canada. It's not as if Canada manufactures drugs more cheaply. Nor are drugs like trees, or bauxite, or hydro power, which just happen to be naturally plentiful in Canada. No, the cheaper Canadian drugs are the same ones sold at higher prices in the United States, and either exported or licensed for manufacture in Canada. Why are they cheaper up north? Because Canada has a policy of controlling drug prices through its national health insurance system. As Deborah Stone, a health policy expert at Dartmouth, has observed, it's not the drugs we should be importing, it's the policy. But the pharmaceutical lobby has so much power in the United States that cheaper drug prices are off the political radar screen. In fact, the recent Medicare bill pushed through Congress by the Bush administration explicitly prohibits Medicare, the largest bulk purchaser of pharmaceutical drugs, from negotiating...

Bridging the Two Americas

In the past four years, the income of the median family has fallen while the gap between executive pay and that of ordinary workers has continued to widen. Some of this trend is the result of deliberate Bush administration policies: tax cuts tilted toward the top, the defunding of social subsidies, the deregulation of corporate America, and the disempowerment of workers. But larger trends are also at work. The fact is that America lacks a comprehensive policy either to ensure minimally adequate incomes for people at the low end of the labor market or to help them ascend career ladders. That's why so many millions of Americans are working full time and are still poor. The absence of a systematic strategy to make work pay is more serious today because of the convergence of several long-term trends that leave working families more vulnerable than in the past. One such trend is the assumption that mothers of young children will be in the labor force, coupled with the gross inadequacy of...

Corrective Measures

A feeble economy could help make John Kerry president. But then it would suddenly be his economy and his problem. Despite high deficits and low interest rates, both of which provide economic stimulus, this economy is barely treading water. Last month, the best the economy could manage was a paltry 32,000 new jobs. And it's now clear that the jobs created since 2001 pay several thousand dollars less, on average, than the jobs that were destroyed. The economic growth rate fell to 3 percent in the second quarter. That's not awful, but it's not nearly as good as the growth rate of the boom years of the 1990s. And given the almost unprecedented combination of huge fiscal stimulus (large deficits) and equally huge monetary stimulus (very low interest rates) the economy ought to be doing much better. Why isn't it? Several reasons. The first problem is purchasing power. With less real money going to working families, people are buying less at the stores. That, of course, slows down the...

Digging Out

Thanks to George W. Bush's tax cuts, the federal government faces a long-term fiscal crisis. An intended side effect is to undercut social investment of the sort that has bonded two generations of voters since Franklin Roosevelt to the Democratic Party. The current year's deficit is projected at $440 billion. If elected, John Kerry will need to find some $300 billion a year just to get the budget into decent fiscal shape -- and then even more money if he hopes to deliver on his promises to broaden health care coverage. Where will the money come from? Kerry has said he will restore pre-Bush tax rates on people making more than $200,000 a year. That's a good start, but it would raise well under $100 billion a year, not enough to both balance the budget and finance the new program initiatives. Because of the Bush tax cuts, federal revenue as a share of the total economy is now back down to the levels of the 1950s. And in the 1950s, there was no Medicare, and Social Security was a much...

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